Saturday, October 9, 2010

Think Pink [Toronto Islands]

Think Pink, originally uploaded by Michael Mitchener.
Date: October 9, 2010
Time: ~6:15 AM to ~9:30 AM
Launch Point: Cherry Beach
Destination: Toronto Islands
Crew: William Self, Frank Lemire & Michael Mitchener
Conditions: Light chop and clear skies.
Sightings: The Ongiara, an odd cat-thing, "the" green house-boat, much fall foliage, the CN Tower (you don't see that everyday) and one stealth-like freighter.

After a summer of light canoeing, we were able to get our collective acts together and get out for a sunrise paddle this Thanksgiving weekend morning. We arrived at Cherry Beach in the dark and leisurely organized ourselves while enjoying a cup of Timmie's. Not surprisingly, Cherry Beach was pretty quiet other than a steamed up car or two. The canoe was in the water and all three of us were aboard (cold feet and all) with just a hint of light showing in the eastern sky.

Our goal was to explore the many channels and lagoons of the Toronto Islands and take in some of the fall colours so we kept close to shore in the dim light as we paddled towards the Eastern Gap. It was unusually quiet on the lake this morning, even for this time of day, and we saw very few boats or people for most of the trip. The city was beautifully reflected on the water as we approached Ward's Island with the Ongiara just leaving and heading to Toronto for what must have been one of the first runs of the morning.

Red Blue Canoe, originally uploaded by Michael Mitchener.

As usual we took many pictures, had many laughs and most importantly, managed to keep the canoe upright and our cameras relatively dry. We paddled as far as the dragonboat course at Centre Island and then turned around to head back to Cherry Beach. As often is the case, the wind had picked up as the morning progressed and the water was pretty rough as we approached the Eastern Gap. Cameras went away into dry-bags as a precaution and we hunkered down to paddle into the wind. After a good work-out, and some lake spray, we made it across the channel, past the swimming dogs and back to the lifeguard station at Cherry Beach.

End of Season, originally uploaded by Michael Mitchener.

We wrapped up the day with a tasty brunch and lots of coffee at Lady Marmalade's followed by a visit with Nikolai from Buffalo at Red Rocket Coffee. All and all a great morning paddle, a great meal, many great cups of coffee, and a great way to spend part of an unseasonably warm October weekend. I'm hoping we might manage to fit in one or two more canoe trips this year but if this turns out to be the last trip of the season, it was a fitting way to end the year.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Red Canoe at Dawn [Killbear]

Red Canoe at Dawn, originally uploaded by Michael Mitchener.
I haven't hit the water as much this summer as I'd like but I hope to make up for it late summer/early fall. Last week, I had a chance to visit Killbear Provincial Park near Parry Sound. This red canoe was spotted on a sunrise photo-walk near our campsite. Other than the canoe and myself, the beach was deserted and the canoe seemed quietly poised for another day on the cool waters of Georgian Bay. I also have an obsession with photographing anything that is red. Click.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Smooth Seas [Outer Harbour]

Bundle of Sticks, originally uploaded by Michael Mitchener.
Date: May 29, 2010
Time: ~5:15 AM to ~8:30 AM
Launch Point: Cherry Beach/Clarke Beach
Destination: Outer Harbour
Crew: William Self, Frank Lemire & Michael Mitchener
Conditions: Smooth seas, near full moon, and clear skies.
Sightings: Many birds, a possible film crew and/or Ku Klux Klan members, Chyna, Louise, other dogs, other dog walkers, a beaver, and some ugly ass carp.

Port Blue, originally uploaded by Michael Mitchener.
Today was the first sailing of newly named Nessie. It was a beautiful day and we arrived pre-sunrise with plenty of time to christen the canoe and suck back some scotch before putting paddle to lake. The Outer Harbour is a familiar route and generally well protected from the greater great lake. Today was no exception as we paddled the smooth waters of the west side of the Spit and explored the shoreline. The lake is notably lower than last year due to our mild winter and there were some areas we were not able to visit as we had in the past.

Beaver Dam, originally uploaded by Michael Mitchener.
The birds are definitely back and we saw much wildlife in general. The Spit is not a bad place to hang out if you're a bird, fish or otter as much of the land is isolated from the large city across the bay. We had a decent paddle followed by excellent coffee and industrial muffins at the Red Rocket. Not a bad way to start a Saturday at all. Thanks to Bill and Frank for a great morning.

Turn Me Loose, originally uploaded by Michael Mitchener.

The Christening [Cherry Beach]

The Christening, originally uploaded by Michael Mitchener.
Well, today was the big day. After announcing that my canoe would be nameless no more, and asking for input, this morning was the official christening of... Nessie.

Thanks to everyone for your feedback and creative suggestions. It wasn't an easy decision. In the end, I went for a bit of a connection to my Scottish roots and the image of a green beast in the lake (or loch) that Nessie produces - for me anyway. I was very close to choosing a Gaelic name but after mentioning a couple options to friends, I realized none of us could actually pronounce a Gaelic name and this would limit the use of a name as a means of reference. Many thanks to my patient first-cousin-once-removed, Donna in Scotland who provided several translations.

Thanks to Bark (AKA Steve K) for suggesting Nessie in the first place. You know your boats and I owe you a sunrise paddle if you ever feel like leaving the house at 5 AM and canoeing around Lake Ontario. Just let me know.

Speaking of early mornings, Frank Lemire and William Self joined me this morning for a pre-sunrise launching of newly named Nessie. We hit the beach around 5:30 AM and figuratively broke a bottle of scotch on Nessie's bow. After a slug of Glenlivet and a toast to Slainte Mhath, we launched Nessie into the calm waters of Lake Ontario and explored the Outer Harbour. Thanks for a great morning (and for the Dixie cups Frank). As Bill mentioned, a pre-canoe toast might be something we want to make a tradition. Cheers.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Don the Paddle [Don River]

Date: May 2, 2010
Time: ~8:45 AM to ~11:15 AM
Launch Point: Ernest Thompson Seton Park
Destination: Keating Channel
Crew: William Self & Michael Mitchener
Conditions: Warm, overcast, occasional rain at times but thankfully no thunderstorms as Bill was using his metal paddle.
Sightings: Many birds, joggers, politicians, abandoned tires and shopping carts, some people living in the woods plus many, many canoeists and kayakers.

We took part in the annual Paddle the Don event today. The point of the race is to have fun, enjoy nature, and celebrate the Don River watershed. In short it was a blast and a perfect way to start the canoe season.

There are a limited number of boats allowed in the race and I think we were one of about 500 that started the day at Wilket Park near Eglinton and Leslie. After going through a thorough safety inspection where we discovered we were short one whistle, much to our embarrassment, we dropped the canoe in the water and started paddling down river. The Don is normally not a great canoe river but they raise the water level by about a foot for this event by lowering a dam upstream at G. Ross Lord Park at Dufferin and Finch. Today, the water was muddy, fairly fast, and generally deep enough for a canoe.

We soon started to get a feel of what to do and what not to do. Low hanging branches were to be avoided as they can tip you out of the canoe as the boat passes under them. As most canoeists know, you try to stay on the outside of bends in a river where the water tends to be deeper. Most importantly, large rocks are not your friend and should be avoided. We managed to stay away from most visible rocks but we did hit one particularly nasty submerged boulder near the beginning of the course. The canoe made a horrible crunching noise as we passed over it, but managed to recover as we continued on. From that point on, we paid closer attention to the canoe ahead of us to see what route they took and whether they found any rocks, which seemed to work. Other than a few scrapes, we were generally rock free from that point on.

We were amazed how long the route was and for the first half of the race, you wouldn't know you were in the city. It was truly beautiful as we rode the fast water between the trees, passing many bridges, joggers and of course, other canoes and kayaks. There were three portages along the route where we had to carry the canoe around a weir and reload on the other side. The first two portages went smoothly enough although the last one involved stepping into the river to push the canoe around some rocks before we could continue on with wet feet.

The bottom part of the race was surreal as we passed close to the Don Valley Parkway and under many bridges, highway overpasses and urban landmarks. I have to say this is the first time I've been in a canoe while watching a streetcar pass overhead.

It was also rather unusual to see the odd tent setup along the riverbank. There's a great deal of visible homelessness within the Don Valley and it was very apparent that some of these "campers" have been living alongside the Don for a great deal of time. Of course, the underside of the bridges south of the viaduct also served as shelter for Toronto's invisible minority.

We both decided to leave our real cameras at home for the race although we brought along one slightly defective, older point-n-shoot. It tends to add weird purple streaks to images and makes the sky pink, so I opted for black & white processing. We're glad we brought a camera but definitely glad we left the other hardware at home. It's not an extremely tough course but you do need to pay attention and we could have easily tipped over at many points in the course as others did.

All in all, it was a great day, a great event for a great cause and something we'd both do again. Thanks to everyone who provided a pledge towards Don River conservation. Thanks to your generosity, we were able to raise $235! Cheers.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Sheila Tequila [British Columbia]

Sheila, originally uploaded by Michael Mitchener.
I came across an old shot of Sheila Tequila in my Dad's photos this week. I bought her at Woolco many years ago and enjoyed much camping, weekend paddles and general fun in her sturdy fibreglass form. You could fill her full of people, camping equipment, dogs, and beer and still plow through the roughest of waves without skipping a beat. When I moved from Vancouver to Toronto, Sheila didn't make the trip with me but I know she still had many more adventures. Thanks for the countless safe journeys and good times Sheila.

Please consider dropping by our Paddle the Don fund-raising page.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Paddle the Don [Don River]

Child of Nature, originally uploaded by Michael Mitchener.
It's official. On Sunday, May 2nd, William Self and myself will be be joining over 400 other enthusiasts to participate in the ultimate urban environment tradition: a paddle down the Don River.

The 16th Annual Paddle the Don event brings together conservationists, business people and recreationalists to traverse one of Toronto's most important watersheds. All donations received will be put toward regeneration projects in the Don watershed.

I invite you to show your support of regeneration efforts on this urban river by sponsoring us as we paddle its lower reaches to Lake Ontario. Wish us luck :)

Saturday, March 13, 2010

What's In A Name?

What's in a Name?, originally uploaded by Michael Mitchener.
My first canoe was orange, fibreglass, 17 feet in length and heavy as a pig. Despite Sheila Tequila's girth, we had many good times paddling, camping, partying, etc.

This is my second and current canoe which is obviously green, 15 feet in length and much lighter than Sheila but missing a name. Can you help? With double digit temperatures in the forecast, I'm thinking a name is way overdue and it won't be long before the first paddle.

Let me know if you have any suggestions or like/hate any of the following names:
  • Green Eggs & Ham
  • Evergreen
  • Urban Escape
  • Geeze Louise
  • Wave Runner
  • Sheila Tequila II
  • Barely A Wake
  • Channel Surfer
  • Green Meanie
  • It's Not Easy Being Green
  • Green Eyed Monster
  • Big C
  • Sea Monkey
  • Green Hornet
Your Suggestions:
  • Nessie
  • Evelyn
  • Miss Otis
  • Pea Pod
  • Gertrude
  • The Hulk
  • Envy
  • Downtime
  • Ogopogo
  • Jade Junket
  • Otter Buster
  • Greener Tequill'er
  • Lorne Green
  • Green Streak
  • Am Beathach Uaine
  • An Curach Uaine
  • Am Muncaidh Mara
I appreciate any suggestions or feedback. Thanks.